Relationship between populism and democracy, the case of Switzerland

Directeur /trice Stephanie Steinmetz - UNIL (LINES)
Co-directeur(s) /trice(s) Davide Morselli - UNIL (LINES)
Résumé de la thèse

Developing inside a political psychological framework, our study relies on social media data from Twitter, which

cover a wide range of topics largely in line with the impact that particular events have on public opinion. Our

main research interest is to understand the relationship between populism and democracy in Switzerland by

investigating the nature of on-line conversations surrounding the working of democracy in the country. We

proposed to address three specific research questions. RQ1: To what extent can social media data substitute

for traditional survey data when reflecting about the relationship between populism and democracy? RQ2:

Are the topics related to the working of democracy in country found in Twitter conversations associated with

congruent positive or negative sentiments when they are addressed by populists, other politicians or citizens?

RQ3: What collective identity is co-constructed by populist, other politicians and citizens over time in Twitter

conversation around the working of democracy in country and how does it correlates with contextual factors?

As the most intensive user of DDM in Western Europe (Serdu¨lt & Welp, 2012), Switzerland speaks against the

assertion according to which one would not expect the success of a party claiming to embody the people’s will

(Canovan, 2002); the centrality of direct democracy in the political process has been shown to constitute an

important opportunity structure for the emergence of populism, Switzerland being even labelled as a populist

paradise (Albertazzi, 2008).

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